These Giant 3D-Printed Eyeballs Are Freakishly Realistic

Weta Workshop is one of the most innovative and respected special effects companies in the game. Richard Taylor founded the New Zealand-based workshop in 1987. Since then, they’ve designed effects for everything from Xena: Warrior Princess to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Weta team is constantly working on impressive new effects. And their latest project… well, let’s just say all eyes are on this one.

Adam Savage went to New Zealand for his YouTube series Tested to check out Weta’s 3D printing lab. There, designers are hard at work perfecting highly realistic human eyeballs. Savage talked to Weta founded Richard Taylor and 25-year-old 3D artist Tor Robinson about the project, and why it’s so important to create these detailed eyeballs.

“Eyes are so critical to get right if you want a character to feel right,” Taylor explained.

Taylor went on to detail some of the challenges in creating eyes that look absolutely human. It comes down to getting the veins right, which can be challenging when painting. That’s where a specific type of 3D printing called “voxel printing” comes into play. The technology helps create the translucent look of the eye.

Weta Workshop hyper realistic 3D printed eyeballs.Adam Savage’s Tested

The process of creating and printing these eyeball designs is exhaustive and expensive. For Robinson, it’s been years of work. According to Weta Workshop’s website, she went six straight months developing this specific 3D printing technology, after joining the company in 2017 out of Victoria University. The site also explains the exact process. Essentially, Robinson uses a 3D software program called Houdini to build the incredible detail of the eyes. The designs are printed out on a Stratasys J750 printer. This controls the droplets—or the “voxels”—produced by the printer.

You can learn more about the design process of these incredible eyeballs in the video above. Weta Workshop content never disappoints, but this is particularly impressive. We’re eager to see how these hyper-realistic eyeballs factor into film and television of the future.

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